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November 29, 2017
Giving Back: Patty Hilkirk
Sometimes when you set out to catch a dream, it catches you, too. Psychotherapist Patty Hillkirk was inspired to create Camp Dreamcatcher in 1996 with the mission of providing a therapeutic community for children coping with HIV/AIDS. Back then, she couldn’t have imagined the thousands of children she’d meet and call “her kids.” Hillkirk, surrounded by colorful handmade pillowcases and other donated supplies, smiles as she reflects on 21 years of camp and describes the ever-expanding vision to support HIV/AIDS-impacted youth.
HIV medications have improved, but fear, stigma, and ignorance live on. Hillkirk’s original vision, to provide a safe place for children ages five and up to spend a week each summer sharing openly and engaging in a variety of therapeutic, educational, and recreational activities, remains unchanged. The children face many challenges, but at Camp Dreamcatcher they find family and hope. “These kids are my heroes,” Hillkirk says. “I’m inspired by their empathy, kindness, and resiliency.”
Camp Dreamcatcher offers the only therapeutic camp on the East Coast and has served 5,200 youth. Hillkirk, along with 300 volunteers, also organizes weekend retreats, reunions, mentoring, and extensive educational outreach programs, in addition to ongoing fundraising. Her dreams include offering more support for young adults and a permanent, winterized camp home.
All programs Camp Dreamcatcher offers are free. Hillkirk describes the generosity of the Kennett community over the years as “phenomenal.” You can make dreams come true for HIV/AIDS impacted children in our community by making a donation in support of Camp Dreamcatcher (campdreamcatcher.org/adopt-a-family-program).